A Sacramento casino in the neighboring community of Elk Grove is one step closer to reality. On Wednesday, California Governor Jerry Brown (D) signed off on a gaming compact with the Wilton Rancheria tribe, which all but assures a $400 million gambling resort will be built 12 miles south of the state’s capital city.

Sacramento casino Elk Grove

Wilton Rancheria Chairman Raymond Hitchcock’s tribe might soon begin work on its Sacramento casino in Elk Grove. (Image: Dennis McCoy/Sacramento Business Journal)

Brown’s signature marks the second consecutive victory for the Native American group.

The US Department of the Interior (DOI) designated 36 acres in Elk Grove as sovereign ground in February, which under federal law allows the Wilton Rancheria people to build a casino and offer Class I and II gaming. But to offer Class III gaming, which includes slots and table games, tribes must reach state compacts.

With its compact now in hand, the tribe only needs final approval from the California State Legislature before it can break ground on the casino.

“We waited 58 years for our land to be restored and now we can look forward to moving ahead toward self-sufficiency, economic development, and giving back to the community,” tribe Chairman Raymond Hitchcock stated.

Wilton Rancheria’s federal recognition was restored in 2009.

Elk Grove Reacts

The new resort will house 2,500 slot machines, upwards of 80 gaming tables, and over 300 hotel rooms. The tribe claims the venue will support 1,750 full-time jobs.

Residents in Elk Grove, a community with about 168,000 people, have varying opinions on a casino coming to their neck of the woods.

Stand Up for California, a statewide organization committed to stopping the expansion of tribal gaming and card clubs, has vowed to continue its fight against the Wilton Rancheria casino. A group of Elk Grove citizens has also filed a lawsuit against the city that claims local officials colluded with the tribe to pave a way for gambling.

Under the tribal gaming compact, the city will receive a one-time fee of $14.5 million. The tribe will also give Elk Grove $5 million annually, plus send $2.4 million each year to the County of Sacramento.

The state will receive no tax revenue for the first seven years the casino is in operation. After that time, California will collect six percent of the house’s net win.

Timetable Unknown

Opponents to the casino say they will try to drag the legal battle on for months, if not years. Cheryl Schmit, Stand Up California’s director, told the Sacramento Bee that the DOI’s decision to place the Elk Grove land into trust will be challenged.

“This thing has so many legal flaws to it,” Schmit said. “We’ve got a buffet table of challenges that we can pick and choose from.”

The legal process could prompt lawmakers to delay providing final approval. But Governor Brown’s compact with the tribe includes provisions that if federal courts take the land out of trust, the gaming agreement becomes void.